When the Technology in the Arts research center, now known as the Arts Management and Technology Laboratory (AMT Lab), began examining the national landscape of ticketing system used in arts organizations in 2009, they uncovered the burgeoning need for improved online and mobile ticketing functions. In six short years, user interest in online and mobile device ticketing capabilities grew from anecdotal levels to 87% of 2015 survey respondents reporting that ticketing system support of mobile purchases is very important.
In 2009, Technology in the Arts deployed its initial survey to gain a deeper understanding of organizational ticketing needs and ticketing systems, however the survey did not include online or mobile-related criteria for respondents to critique. Nevertheless, the winds of technological change had spread through arts organizations nationally prompting many, especially those from “large” and “very large” organizations, to write-in comments about their emerging mobile and online needs. As a result, the 2011 survey asked about the importance of ‘online sales,’ which shot to the top of the functions organizations cited as critical for a ticketing system to have.
The 2011 ticketing survey also included ‘mobile integration’ as a possible desired feature. Surprisingly, it was ranked among the lowest in importance for each budget category.
Oh how things have changed. As of 2014, 64% of US adults owned a smart phone, up from 35% in 2011. The boom of mobile use since 2011 altered how audiences interact with arts organizations. No longer are audiences strictly depending on in-person box office exchanges or phone calls for ticket purchasing. According to the 2015 survey results, respondents depend on their ticketing system to support a diverse range of ticket purchasing methods. Interestingly, website purchasing ranked highest in importance, outpacing even phone and in-person ticket methods. Even though mobile often ranks fourth in importance, only above mail-in/fax ticket methods, it has seen at least a 40 percentage point increase in importance since 2011. Mobile purchasing usage increases as budget size increases, as seen below. It even occasionally surpasses traditional purchasing methods, like in-person or phone, especially by respondents from organizations earning between $5 million - <$10 million.
Just like in 2011, larger organizations appear to be leading the charge in utilizing mobile ticketing functions within a ticketing system. The 2015 survey shows larger organizations reporting higher frequencies of mobile-friendly websites and smartphone ticketing apps. As many as 46% of respondents from organizations earning >$10 million report their ticketing system has both a mobile-friendly site and smartphone app, compared to only 23% of respondents from organizations earning <$999,999. Whether this is due to patterns in usage or to the fact that the ticketing systems available to small organizations may not offer these features is unclear.
While smaller organizations report less use of a ticketing system’s mobile purchasing functions, respondents from every budget category attribute critical importance to a ticketing system’s ability to process mobile purchases.
AMT Lab’s longitudinal survey of ticketing system usage in the arts has uncovered some interesting trends in organizational needs and societal behavior. Having several years of survey data provides the industry with reliable research on how these needs and behaviors have shifted over time and where they might be going. In 2011, AMT Lab saw larger institutions investing in digital technologies. Now, organizations in every budget size have integrated mobile and web functionality into their ticketing systems. For those organizations looking to adopt a new ticketing system, keep an eye on the availability of mobile and web integrated features. As the market matures, these features will become not only more widely available but also more affordable.